Monday, August 02, 2010

Subsidiarity and Fiscal Transparency

Cosmopolis Earth, Part I

By John Taylor; 2010 Aug 02, Kamal 01, 167 BE

People Without Borders is an attempt to imagine the aftermath of a turning point so epoch-making that it has sometimes been called the end of history. In reality, it will be the beginning of history. For the first time all humans will live as one family in a single home, Cosmopolis Earth.

When a Comenius-inspired world government forms it will start by implementing the recapitulating decade plan that we outlined briefly in the first section. This permits change to operate as it were at the cellular and genetic levels, as in living organisms. The monolithic nation state, notoriously prone to corruption and tyranny, will be demolished and replaced by at least three decentralizing modalities, similar to how our bodies divide universal functions into a vascular system, a nervous system, a muscular system, and so forth.

The College of Light, for instance, will work the decade plan through affiliates at every level, from the individual to the family, right on up to the continental government, and finally the world government itself. Most notably, the three universal institutions will operate by decentralizing the world of finance.

At present government funding works like this: a monolithic state collects taxes en masse and then in an annual budget drawn up by the party in power it distributes funds to cabinet -- in this case the equivalent of the College of Light, the department of education. The department of education then trickles expenditures down to the school, while offering grants to other parties involved in education. In this way, centralization stifles and straightjackets leaders at the local level.

While this has the advantages of simplicity and complete control, in practice it amounts to reductionism and micromanagement. It is as if our brain had to tell every cell in our body what to do and where to go. If our brains ever did take on this herculean task they would be so overwhelmed that we would be unable to become conscious or take account of the outside world.
Instead, a Comenian government applies the twin principles of local governance known as fiscal transparency and subsidiarity. Jane Jacobs explains them like this,

"Subsidiarity is the principle that government works best -- most responsibly and responsively -- when it is closest to the people it serves and the needs it addresses. Fiscal accountability is the principle that institutions collecting and disbursing taxes work most responsibly when they are transparent to those providing the money." (Jane Jacobs, Dark Age Ahead, Random House, New York, 2004, 103)

As Jacobs points out, these localizing principles are not new; they arose in cities and towns of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. According to her, they helped civilization rise out of the Dark ages. Today secrecy is ubiquitous and central power again blocks out budgets from view. This threaten to drag us down into another Dark Age.

Our world at present has almost two hundred nations, each with its own currency and monetary policy. While it is true that the American dollar is the De Facto world currency, the fact that it is unofficial creates structural injustices that are too numerous to mention. In a Comenian economy the number of currencies would be reduced not to one but to three, one for each of the three franchises,

The College of Light (philosophy, science and education)
The Dicastery of Peace (ethics, freedom and equality)
The Consistory of Holiness (love, compassion and inter-faith cooperation)

I shall devote an entire section of a future volume of People Without Borders to these "terra" currencies. Suffice to say for now that having an entire currency at its command would put monetary policy as well as legislative power into the hands of the three institutions, the College, the Dicastery and the Consistory. This would give it discretionary powers presently unknown at any level of governance.

Every local College of Light, for instance, would have as its goal increasing the educational level of citizens in the area. In a poor land, such as a rural village in Haiti, the town College of Light would be obliged to spend its entire budget on literacy. It could not pass on any tax monies to higher Colleges, such as the Continental College of Light for the Americas. This would turn up as a red mark on that College's "eduterra" taxation data display. Since Haiti is the poorest place in the Americas, and lack of education is the prime factor in poverty, nobody can doubt that the most red marks would turn up in Haiti on their mapped-out fiscal transparency display. As mentioned, the principle of "proving skill by going to the greatest need" requires that the combined election campaigns and service projects from which the leadership of the College of Light is elected always takes place in the locality of greatest need. In this case, the "red light district" would definitely be in Haiti.

In a recent work, Tracy Kidder examines the life and values of a man who, without any such structural incentives, chose exactly such a service project in Haiti, the country in this hemisphere that is currently in greatest need -- especially after the 2010 earthquake. Kidder's book is called "Mountains Beyond Mountains, The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, the Man Who Would Cure the World" (Random House, New York, 2004). Farmer chose the town with the most grinding poverty, Cange, Haiti, and built there a medical clinic. Farmer also that public health is maintained by basic infrastructure, such as clean water, basic shelter and so forth.

In a Comenian system, Dr. Paul Farmer would surely be elected right away to the College of Light for the Americas. In a Comenian world order, all three continental institutions would be able to inject a great flood of all three types of terra currency into a place like Haiti until its red marks turn black. The College of Light would improve schools and teaching until they cease to depend upon outside eduterras and learn to generate their own revenue. Similarly, the Peace Dicastery would invest its money, the paxterra, in eliminating violence and lawlessness, and assuring that human rights are defended.

As for the interfaith body, the Consistory of Holiness, it is unlikely that on its mapping displays the worst red marks would turn up anywhere near Haiti. As Kidder's book points out, the poor tend to know more about faith than the rich, who are prone to materialism. But if, for arguments sake, there are a few rich neighbourhoods in Haiti where a wealthy elite refuse to share, the Consistory would direct its funds there in projects designed to raise the spiritual consciousness of residents.

Once Haiti is no longer our poorest place, the attention of the region would automatically turn to the next brightest red light district on their respective maps.

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